Chilblains affect the toes but can also affect the fingers, ears and nose. They appear on the skin as small, itchy swellings which occur as a reaction to cold temperatures. They can be uncomfortable but rarely cause any permanent damage.They will normally heal within a couple of weeks if further exposure to the cold is avoided.
The majority of sufferers develop Chilblains in the winter due to the low temperatures which cause a restriction of a small branch of artery leading to the capillaries which supply blood to the skin. When the skin is warmed quickly this can lead to blistering, redness and itchy lesions. Occasionally Chilblains can reoccur or become severe with a small chance that an infection can develop from the blistered or scratched skin which could lead to permanent scarring. In very severe cases, painful ulcers may develop on the skin.
If the skin is itchy, a soothing lotion such as witch hazel or calamine can help. Most importantly, keeping the toes warm and dry as much as possible Occasionally the skin can break. If it does, apply a dressing to keep infection at bay. When your feet do get cold make sure to warm them up slowly and not by putting them on a radiator or hot water bottle. A combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise can also reduce the occurrence of Chilblains.
If you have an infection it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible.